Visualization of Proposal for the MTA.
Bobby Silverman thought he wanted to be a social geographer, the study of spatial patterns, investigating how and why we live and work where we do. On the way to getting his degree, he took a detour to Japan. There he witnessed the daily use of beautiful handcrafted objects, born of traditions that were thousands of years old. He became an apprentice to the master potter Samejima Saturo. What might have felt serendipitous at the time was actually, according to Silverman “preordained.” His family had actively collected antiques and decorative objects. The Japanese ritual of utilizing art that was functional felt familiar to Silverman.
Shoji Red and Gold Drip Ceramic Tile.
Returning to America, Silverman received his Master of Fine Arts from Alfred University and embarked on a career in ceramic exploration that has spanned 30 years.
“With an intimate understanding of the medium and its process, I tend to think of solutions that are idiosyncratic to the material.” Working out of his Brooklyn studio, Silverman established Alsio Design, named for the components of clay-alumina, silica and oxygen.
Silverman utilizes complicated glazing techniques to achieve translucency and emulate gravity. In the Shoji series the diffuse applications of color create a diaphanous lyrical surface. Employing drips, the abstract floral motifs appear to both bloom and wilt, evoking the passage of time. Like the painted Shoji panels Silverman discovered in Japan, the tiles integrate the artistic and functional, a critical component of Silverman’s work.
Versailles’ Gold Tile (detail).
The Versailles Collection melds Silverman’s consummate skill by utilizing the technical and aesthetic properties of ceramic. Taking three years to develop, the elegant tile is realized only in metallic glazes, which maximize the reflectivity of the dimensional effervescent bubbles. Light catches each rounded orb, a toast to the 17th century royal chateau where the treaty was signed to protect the provenance of French champagne.
Braille ceramic art in residential setting.
Silverman explains, “The Braille, Morse, Binary, and bar codes all reflect a fascination with the visual representation of information, a manifestation of my interest in geography and art.” He creates phenomenological based designs integrating the sense of touch. Braille tiles celebrate poetry and color. A proposal for the MTA subway integrated Morse code translations of the approximate 180 nationalities that live in Queens. The floor tile merged stories of immigrants translated in Braille. Silverman mandated tiles for the vaulted ceiling similar to Spanish architect Rafael Gustavino’s patented technique. The purpose of this rich and tactile design was to celebrate the immigrant population that uses the subway daily. Braille and Morse code are two visual interpretations of language added to the multiplicity of native dialects spoken by commuters. Amidst this Mecca of culture and narrative, Silverman still seems intent on understanding our connections to place. His ceramic tiles, elevated to artistry, provide the patterns.
Design Resource: Alsio Design